Chris started asking me what I wanted for Christmas in November.

Being a woman and expecting him to read my mind, I didn’t answer.

Being a mere mortal man and unable to do so, he continued asking.

Sometime in mid-December, he began asking with a greater level of forcefulness.

I still ignored his question.  But really, I was just too guilt-ridden to tell him.  Because I’m a mother.

(A woman’s ability to excrete guilt from her system is permanently inhibited at the moment of her first placenta’s departure.  I’m sure that’s a scientific fact.)

Finally, a week or two before Christmas, he said something along the lines of, “You have GOT to tell me what you want for Christmas or you’re going to wake up Christmas morning and find a vacuum.  And none of us want that.”

“You really want to know?”

“And I’ve been asking you all this time…why??”

“I want to go away.  By myself.”

“Like a Mommy Retreat?”

“Exactly.  I need time with God, time to get caught up on some blogging housekeeping, and time to clear my mind from the holidays.”

“Done.  Pick the weekend and it’s yours.         …By the way.  Did you know this whole time that’s what you wanted?”


“You’re so weird.”

But Chris is the type who must provide something to unwrap on Christmas morning, so he had a variety of small gifts in preparation for my trip.

Starbucks Coffee…cozy pajamas…new pens…a notebook…and this retreat flyer:

Grasping for Creativity Conference

I chose the weekend after all holiday insanity was past.  As a reward to myself for surviving the Thanksgiving – Noah’s Birthday – Christmas – New Years – Ali’s Birthday  – Bathroom Tear Out and Rebuild Circle of Insanity.

And, just to make sure I fully appreciated my retreating, Ali got her second ear infection ever on New Year’s Day, and Noah added his nine-day SuperIllness.

Now, I love my kids, but one weekend of trading this:


for this:


was like vacationing from the Communist USSR to the Swiss Alps.

But Chris hadn’t needed the healing, holding, or gutting.  And after all, he was the one who so willingly gifted me with my time away.  So I decided to have my cake and eat it too, and invited him to join me for part of my retreat.

Which meant that the kids got a bit of renewal, too – at The Grandparent’s House:

Grandparent HeavenPhotos courtesy of Gramamma.

Clearly, this was a win/win/win.

(And even more clearly, I need to learn to mitigate unnecessary guilt.)

As I set off for my retreat, my step a little lighter, I noticed that my purse was not.  Upon further investigation, I realized that I had been carrying around a pair of Ali’s shoes for two days.

For no reason.

As I delved deeper into the abyss, I began to ponder: maybe it wasn’t the kids weighing me down after all – perhaps, just perhaps, it was all of their crap I was lugging around.


I arrived at my room and the first thing I pulled out was my new favorite relaxation method:


Yes.  They did indeed just re-release the Original Deluxe set.  And yes, I bought that one all for myself.

It’s like yoga for the hands.  And eyes.  And mind.


At 4:30 that afternoon, I heard the faint sound of bagpipes.  I looked out in the parking lot, and there you have it.  Ross Bridge employs a bagpiper.  Who knew?


The bagpiper somehow made the Birmingham mountains that I look at every day seem much more exotic, and even closer to being Swiss Alps.


(What?? I’m sure that Scottish Bagpipers vacation in Switzerland.)

Chris joined me after work and commandeered my ice bucket, turning it into a vase.


Later, we rearranged and placed the flowers next to my brand new “Happy Light” – an experiment I’m trying to combat my sluggish brain function due to gloomy winter weather.


(So far I like it, by the way.  Not sure it’s returned my mind to it’s formerly functioning state, but that could be irreversible damage done by offspring, so there’s that.)

I spent Friday night with Chris, Saturday and Saturday night by myself, and even ordered room service Saturday night, thereby fully indulging in retreat luxury.


I didn’t get quite as much accomplished as I had hoped, but I did get a lot done, and more importantly, regained my mental footing, enjoyed the silence, and rejuvenated spiritually.

Aaaaand…I might have wallpapered my hotel room in Spirograph.


And when I returned, I couldn’t wait to see these happy smiley faces.

Happy Kids

Mommy Retreats should be mandatory.

47 thoughts on “The First Annual Grasping for Creativity Conference.

  1. That is awesome :) This has been my dream for… well… since I became a mom! I think once we’re not so broke, I will do this. The joy and luxury of being able to eat dinner without getting everyone else’s dished up and at the right temperature, and cut up just so, etc. Some time to put me first :) Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I’ve asked for this before. I always wind up taking Harry with me. Time for a change.

  3. What a great idea! But don’t you know you’re required to eat something non-kid-friendly on mommy retreats? It looks like you ordered chicken nuggets and fries from room service. Totally against the Mommy Retreat rules! ;)

      1. Oh thank goodness! lol Fish is most definately not kid food–unless you have my boys, who have been known to request crab legs and tuna steaks for their birthday dinner. lol

  4. Good news – glad to hear you got a much needed break. I agree, mommy retreats should be mandatory (and not to ‘get things done’, just to relax for a bit!). I think they’re *especially* mandatory for homeschooling mommies ‘cos you spend SO MUCH time with your kids. I find I’m a much better employee after a break and a bit of perspective, I expect it’s the same with parenting.

    1. Yes exactly. Although thanks to good nappers and quiet timers, I probably get more alone time than most homeschool Mommies.

      Which is why I can blog…

  5. Love the invitation and the fact he got you gifts for you to take along with you. What a very thoughtful and creative husband. Glad you enjoyed your “time off.”

  6. I have a few things to say:
    1. {Mommy Retreats should be mandatory.} AMEN!
    2.You have a gem of a husband!
    3. I loved Spirograph as a kid. Now I moved to Zentangles to help me relax.
    4. I hope you posted the picture of bag-pipe guy in a KILT at WTM forums. ;)

  7. This is awesome. He’s so creative. No wonder you two are an item. Creativity and wittiness. It’s like PB&J or peas and carrots.

    Also…You are CRACKING ME UP with that spirograph. HA!

  8. When I realized what you were doing, I decided you are a genius! All weekend I was jealous! I’m SOOOOO asking for a retreat! Brilliant, my dear!

  9. Congrats to you for having a wonderful break, you deserve it! Good on Chris for dragging it out of you! …….and please forgive me, im very sorry but I’m just a tiny bit envious of your husband choosing talent…….

    1. Sorry for the envy.

      I wrote a book of “55 Requirements for a Husband” when I was 16. I met him when I was 17, and carefully measured him against my list. He met 53 immediately, and the other two shortly.

      I guess writing down what you want does sometimes get it for you!

  10. I am so proud of you for asking for what you really wanted. And, YES! Mommy retreats Should be mandatory. Like, duh, why didn’t I think of that? You do realize your husband is Awesome, right?

    I, too, loved the Spirograph. It always intrigued me and I will have to look for another one. Let the doodling begin!

  11. i love your blog posts… your are your own objectivity, rachel, because you celebrate the whole subjective part of it. i know there are hard days. i love the fact that you get to a point that you are thankful for even the hard days and celebrate the sweet ones. does that make sense?

  12. I think the fact that I have tears in my eyes reading this must mean I need one of these retreats! It’s good to know other moms understand that need. So many moms I know feel guilty ever leaving their kids or put forth the idea that you’re not a good mom if you need a break!

    1. Yes! In fact, I told my husband that I was waiting on “that” comment on my blog post – the one that says something along the lines of “why would you want to get away from your kids?” — I’m glad it never came.

      I hope you get a retreat soon!

  13. that sounds so wonderful. i could use a day away like every week. i was just talking to a friend this week on the phone about how repetitive mothering could be. just hit repeat!

  14. You are so lucky. Glad you got some Rachel time. This is totally what I wanted for Christmas too! It’s on the calendar for the end of February :)

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